Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Arms Embargo on China

Delivered in Plenary - December 17th 2003

Mr President

It is essential that the EU engages constructively with China as the most populated country on earth and - in terms of certain purchasing parity measures - as an economy that is due to overtake my country, the United Kingdom, and perhaps even Germany in the next two decades. China is a vast country with a trained and productive workforce, but it is not a democracy and remains essentially an authoritarian, one-party, Communist State - although Marxism plays little part in its political or economic thinking at present.

However, I welcome China's cooperation in the fight against international terrorism and its rapprochement with India, whose territory it still occupies, having traditionally been an ally of Pakistan, whose atom bomb it helped to build. China is also helping to put pressure on North Korea, against its quest to build its own nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, I am critical of China's inhumane treatment of North Korean refugees, who are sent back to face torture or even execution.

Red China, however, remains a serious threat to Taiwan, which has been a model of democracy, prosperity and good governance. There is an irrational fear on the part of China of Taiwan wishing to pursue a course of self-determination and independence, perhaps because the model of pluralism and democracy is what is most unwelcome to the Communist Party bosses.

However, given China's attitude towards Taiwan, Tibet and its own dissenters - ranging from the peaceful practitioners of Falun Gong to the pro-democracy activists who were imprisoned so brutally after Tiananmen Square - I support maintaining the EU arms embargo. After all, the Taiwan Straits remain one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints and the USA is obliged to intervene to protect Taiwan militarily in the event of hostilities. Therefore, we do not want to do anything to further escalate the tensions in this region.